8 Bit Christmas; Ender's Game; I Suck at Girls; Ava Gardner: the Secret Conversations; Seven Deadlies; The Spanish Queen; Walking Dead: the Fall of the Governor Part One0 comments Posted by Bekki at 10:25 AM
"8 Bit Christmas" by Kevin Jakubowski was great, hilarious and nostalgic. If you grew up in the 80s and remember what it was like to want a Nintendo more than anything else in the world, this book will speak to you. Young Jake's neighborhood is rocked when one of his friends gets a Nintendo for his birthday. He lords it over the other boys, making them compete for the privilege of playing on his game. All Jake and his friends want for Christmas is machines of their own. Jake's parents think it's too violent and won't buy him one, and they're not the only parents in town who feel that way. Jakubowski nails the spirit of the 80s.
I enjoyed the movie "Ender's Game" much more than I thought I would when I saw it a few weeks ago, so I read the book by Orson Scott Card and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the book, too. I'm not a huge sci-fi person, but it was pretty good. Young Ender is training to be a soldier, a leader, a commander, through a series of war like games. I can't say too much without giving away major plot points, but it was great.
"I Suck at Girls" by Justin Halpern was pretty funny. Halpern wrote "Shit My Dad Says", and in this new collection he talks about how he's fumbled with the opposite sex his whole life, with of course some sage advice from his old man.
"Ava Gardner: the Secret Conversations" by Peter Evans was a bit disappointing. It was less about Ava and more about Peter's struggles to get her to talk to him and write her memoir in the first place. In the late 1980s Ava was pretty broke and decided to publish her story in order to make some money. Peter met with her, and talked with her on the phone late at night. The parts of the book that are actually about Ava are interesting, but there's not much there and Peter's voice gets redundant.
"Seven Deadlies" by Gigi Levangie was pretty clever, I liked it. There was an unexpected little twist at the end that I thought was neat. Perry Gonzales tutors half the kids at the swanky private academy she attends, where all the kids are spoiled and rich. She details some of her more interesting clients by relating their behaviors to the seven deadly sins. It was pretty funny, and a quick read.
"The Spanish Queen" by Carolly Erickson was an interesting imagining of Queen Catherine of Aragon. Erickson imagines that Catherine so hated Anne Boleyn that she actually did her harm, which of course is ridiculous but it's just fiction.
And finally, Robert Kirkman's latest Walking Dead novel "Walking Dead: the Fall of the Governor Part One". We get to see Rick, Michonne, and Glenn arrive at Woodbury from the Governor's point of view. I must admit, the graphic description of Michonne torturing the Governor got to me a little, and normally I can read pretty dicey stuff without getting icky, but this was bad. Well done! Extra points for grossing me out.
The Tudors; Tudor Conspiracy; Piercing; House of Leaves; Poppet; Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald; Driven; Mrs. Poe0 comments Posted by Bekki at 10:03 AM
Boy am I behind! Let's get crackin'...
A lot of Tudor books lately. "The Tudors" by Peter Ackroyd was pretty good. It was mostly about Henry VIII, but that's to be expected. He hit the high points of all of their reigns.
"Tudor Conspiracy" by C. W. Gortner was interesting fiction about the plot to take down Queen Mary and replace her with Elizabeth. Brendan Prescott serves both the queen and Elizabeth, helping Mary discover others who are out to get her without implicating Elizabeth. A daunting task, to be sure.
"Piercing" by Ryu Murakami was disturbing and twisted, so I thoroughly enjoyed it :) New father Kawashima Masayuki (I hope I spelled that right, I can't read my own handwriting) has fantasies about stabbing his baby daughter with an ice pick. Rather than give in to such sick ideas, he hired a prostitute to stab instead. But he gets more than he bargained for when Chiaki shows up. Chiaki is severely damaged in her own way and their showdown was gruesome and tense.
I read a great interview a few months ago with Stephen King and his family, and they mentioned how much they all liked Mark Z. Danielewski's "House of Leaves", so I had to read it. It was complex and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. It's one of those books that has to sink in, I think. It was several stories all intertwined in one: Johnny Truant finds a manuscript in an apartment of dead man about a house that had a never ending hallway. There were many books and papers written about the Navidson family's strange house, and the old blind man, Zampano, was collecting and writing about. Reading the manuscript and all the other research he has compiled makes Johnny go insane. At least, it seems that way. The structure of the book was really interesting: there were footnotes and parts printed upside down, sideways, backwards. It was definitely one of those books that you have to work for and can't read with one eye while doing something else, which is what I tend to do a lot.
"Poppet" by Mo Hayder was another excellent chilling suspense. Man can this woman write! Residents in an mental home are all suffering from the same delusion: that there is a ghost called The Maud who is hurting them, killing them off one by one. Is it a delusion, though, or is someone really torturing these poor confused people? AJ is trying to find out if there's a connection between The Maud and a recently released patient who murdered his parents when he was a kid named Isaac who has a taste for making little dolls, or poppets, using pieces of people. Fun stuff!
I liked Therese Anne Fowler's "Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" more than I thought I would. Full disclaimer: I don't like F. Scott Fitzgerald. To be fair, I've only read "The Great Gatsby", but I had to read it three times as an undergrad and I *hated* it. When the movie came out earlier this year my sister wanted to read the book and asked me about it and I told her I would rather light myself on fire than read that drivel again. I really would. That being said, I find his wife fascinating, and I thought Fowler did a good job of bringing Zelda to life. Everything they did was on such an over the top scale, I'm sure it was exhausting. No wonder her mind broke down.
Donald Driver is one of Green Bay's all time best receivers. In "Driven", he talks about how he got to the top through hard work and the love of his family, and how wonderful it was to play with Brett. He has respect for certain people that I can't abide because of the way they treated the great number 4, but hey, he doesn't want to make enemies. I have no such qualms :)
"Mrs. Poe" by Lynn Cullen was a fictionalized account of how Edgar Allan Poe and poet Frances Osgood's affair may have gone, if indeed they did have an affair (it's debatable). I enjoyed it, it was kind of dark and spooky, like Poe himself.
I finished Ian Doescher's clever mash up "William Shakespeare's Star Wars", a few weeks after seeing the first Star Wars movie for the first time. I really enjoyed this one, he very ingeniously incorporated many elements from Shakespeare into the Star Wars story. I know I'm probably in the minority here, but I enjoy most of the mash ups I read. "Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies" remains a favorite, but this one is right up there. Nicely done!
A few weeks ago I read an advanced reader copy of Laura Andersen's second book in her trilogy "The Boleyn Deceit". I didn't care too much for the first one, "Boleyn King", but I liked this one more. William is determined to marry Minuette, just as Minuette is determined to follow her heart and marry Dominic. Wildly speculating here, but it seems like she's going to kill William off and have Elizabeth step in to reign, just like how it happened in real life. I was hoping for a little bit more reimagining, but all in all it wasn't bad.
"Allegiant" by Veronica Roth is the last of the Divergent trilogy. I enjoyed it, although it did get a bit complex for me at times. I might not have been paying the *best* attention to it. I tend to multitask a lot while reading, which I probably shouldn't do. But anyway, I thought the ending was great, a total gut punch I wasn't expecting but I liked because it seemed realistic and it surprised me.
David Simon's "Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets" was hands down one of the best true crime books I have ever read. Simon spent the year of 1988 with the detectives of the Baltimore Homicide unit, and he chronicles their trials and tribulations with trying to solve seemingly unsolvable murders. Oh man it was a tough read but very brilliant. I'm dying to read his next book "Corner".
The Kennedy Chronicles; Book of Hollywood Extravagance; The Bride Wore Size 12; Coreyography; Johnny Cash: the Life0 comments Posted by Bekki at 7:20 PM
If I could ever live someone else's life for a day, it would be former MTV VJ Kennedy. In her book "The Kennedy Chronicles", she talks about how she had the most awesome job in the world. I loved watching "Alternative Nation", and I'm jealous as hell that she made out with Dave Navarro and Trent Reznor. My 16 year old self is super pissed :) Her book was funny and nostalgic. I miss good music.
"Book of Hollywood Extravagance" by James Robert Parish was a fun collection of short tales about Hollywood excess, from multiple marriages to fortunes squandered. It was interesting.
"The Bride Wore Size 12" by Meg Cabot is her latest Heather Wells mystery. Heather and Cooper are getting married in a month, her long estranged mother shows up on her doorstep wanting to make amends, her boss is pregnant, there's a prince living in Fischer Hall so security's been tightened, and a RA dies after attending a wild party thrown by the prince. Heather is a bit overwhelmed by everything, to say the least, but she is determined to solve the crime and concentrate on her wedding.
"Coreyography" by Corey Feldman was just heartbreaking. What he and Corey Haim went through in Hollywood...so sad. The drugs, the pedophiles. He has nice things to say about Michael Jackson, which makes me happy. I just feel so bad for him and Corey. It was heartbreaking in one other way, too: St. Martin's Press obviously decided not to waste money on a proofreader. The whole book was littered with spelling and grammar errors, the most egregious was misspelling Stephen King's name on p. 215. Good grief. I tried not to let that detract from his heart felt storytelling but man, it was tough.
And finally, I read an advanced reader copy of Robert Hilburn's "Johnny Cash: the Life" and wept like a baby. What an amazing, powerful story. Hilburn does an excellent job of telling it like it is. It's a must read for any Johnny Cash fan. I hope someday to find love like Johnny and June had. What an amazing life.
"Hark! A Vagrant" by Kate Beaton was a fun collection of hilarious and snarky comics based on historical figures. It was sarcastic and witty, so I thoroughly enjoyed it.
When she was 13, Samantha Geimer was raped by noted film director Roman Polanski. Ever since, she has dreaded hearing about Polanski in the news because then the whole sordid story comes out all over again. In "The Girl" she tells her side of it, and why she wishes it would all just go away. She doesn't think Polanski should be persecuted and pursued any longer, in fact, back when it happened she thought the judge was being overly punitive. I can understand where she's coming from, and I can understand the justice system wanting to punish the guilty. When you start drawing lines in the sand as to what is a really awful crime and what's not so bad, things get ugly and contentious real quick. It was honest and forthright.
Oliver Potzsch steps away from his historical hangman's daughter series to write a contemporary mystery. "The Ludwig Conspiracy" finds bookseller Steven Lukas unhappily and most unwillingly drawn into a murder mystery when a mysterious stranger leaves a book at his shop and then is murdered the next day. Thugs are after the book, and Steven is going to protect it until he finds out what is going on. It was clever and interesting and I enjoyed it. Boy can this guy write!
"White Princess" by Phillipa Gregory is about Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII's mother. Gregory and I have the same view when it comes to Richard III, so I enjoyed this fictionalized account of Elizabeth struggling after Richard's death, forced into marrying Henry VII.
"Obituary Writer" by Ann Hood was a good quick read. It was sweet and sad. Claire cheats on her husband because she is bored with her suburban existence. Forty years earlier in San Francisco, Vivien is devastated when her lover, David, goes missing after the big earthquake in 1906. She ends up becoming famous for her beautifully written obituaries and spends the next 13 years searching for David, mourning him, and putting her own happiness on hold. How Claire and Vivien's stories intertwine is predictable but still enjoyable.
"The King's Grave" by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones is an interesting look at how Richard III's body was found last year. Like Langley, I hope this discovery will lead to a reexamining of his much maligned life.
"Whole" by T. Colin Campbell is his follow up to "The China Study". It was pretty technical and a lot over my head at times, but it was worth the slog through it. Campbell discusses the importance of looking at humans as a whole and not parts, and how nutrition is so vital in the form of whole foods rather than supplements and pills. He's fighting the good fight, that's for sure. Keep it up, sir.
"First Love" by Joyce Carol Oates was a regrettably forgettable novella about a young girl being sexually abused by her uncle. I was in the mood for some gothic-y horror after reading the Susan Hill novella, but this wasn't really what I was after.
"Difficult Men" by Brett Martin was a fun look at the so-called "third golden age of television", starting with the "Sopranos" in the late 1990s, that spawned such great shows like "Mad Men", "Breaking Bad", and "The Wire". It was interesting to see the different writing styles of the different creators of these shows and how they came into being.